A Grateful Heart

30 Days of Gratitude- Day 17

30 Days of Gratitude- Day 17 (Photo credit: aussiegall)

My world is seen through the lens of my heart’s condition.

If the world looks dreary, I need to.give thanks and look at my blessings.

If those around me seem grumpy, I need to give thanks, give them a break rather than judge, and look at my own thoughts. My own state of mind influences how I perceive others.

If my day begins bad, I need to give thanks I have that day, and give it to God.

If I’m offended by another’s words, I need to give thanks and realize those words are not about me.

If I feel anger at another’s words or actions, I need to release it and give thanks. Harboring that anger gives away any power I may have and the gives the devil a foothold.

If I’m content and at peace, I need to give thanks. It is then my heart is right with God.

Viewing the world through the lens of a grateful heart, despite any and all circumstances, is the pathway to peace.

U-Turns

Some days it is entirely too easy to wallow in self-pity when something doesn’t go the way I had planned after putting in tremendous time and effort, when my work doesn’t get recognized, when a friend is hurting and I can’t help, when my adult children are learning ongoing life lessons, or when I too often find myself in an uncomfortable place.

Children Play with Garbage in Cambodia Slum

Children Play with Garbage in Cambodia Slum (Photo credit: United Nations Photo)

It’s critical to swing a U-turn immediately upon recognizing I’m on the slippery downhill slope of a full on pity party of one. And I’ve had some scary parties when I’ve waited for the right, safe place to turn around rather than make it happen right then and there. And it all begins with a single thought. That thought will lead to action if allowed to.

Self-pity occurs when I spend too much time thinking about me and owning another’s problems, making it about me. When I become more important than others. When I begin to serve myself rather than serve those that need me. When I develop a sense of entitlement rather than work to earn what is possible for me to achieve. That critical U-turn means turning my focus from me to you. My self-centered thoughts to thoughts of others.

If I’m feeling sorry for myself because something did not go my way, I can choose to focus on being happy for the person whose way it did go. If a friend is hurting or my children are struggling, I can pray and thank God that He is with them. They couldn’t have a better Counselor. When I find myself in an uncomfortable place, I can look to see what I may have done to participate in the process that put me there, and be grateful to learn the lesson.

When that U-turn seems too risky, and safer to postpone, I can look to those so much less fortunate, who have so much less and problems so much greater than me, and I’m grateful I have the opportunity to make that U-turn right then and there. That the choice is in my power and control, thanks to God.

The children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and children who have been born in third world countries who depend on others through sponsorship programs such as Compassion International and Amazima Ministries to give them a chance in life, to provide them the very basics they need to survive such as medicine, food and clean water, things most of us take for granted without giving it a second thought, will lift me from the burden of being self-focused faster than anything else can. Seeing these children who are in such pain, despair, and poverty, yet they have hope, a smile and so much love. What amazing inspiration! We are called to serve one another, to bless others, and yet these precious children continue to bless me beyond anything I could ever hope for.

Could I encourage you to look at these children, offer up prayers for them, and allow them to bless you too?

God’s Whispers

Like a toddler suspended in time, I have spent endless years testing my boundaries to see just how far God would let me wander off, dangerously nearing the fire on too many occassions to count. I frequently wondered if He even realized I had wandered off. If He had, I was sure He would have protected me from all the painful things I endured. Though I believed He existed, I wasn’t sure He knew I existed.

Until a recent life-changing event that led to thoroughly dissecting my life and the importance of not only believing in God, but giving my life to Him on a daily basis, answers I had been searching for are continually being revealed. I have discovered that God is not the author of evil, man is. His presence and grace have been a constant during the times I thought He was far away. It was me that traveled far from Him.

From the divorce that ripped my world apart, shattering the very foundation on which I stood, especially when I saw the pain it caused my children, God showed me the importance of cultivating relationships and honoring marriage.

From an assault I suffered at the young age of 18, God taught me how to perseve and overcome challenges and trials in life, teaching me the powerful lesson of forgiveness and the freedom it brings.

From the heartbreaking death of my stepdaughter, God taught me compassion to those who experience losing a loved one to suicide, as well as an understanding of bipolar disorder, a mental illness that is so widely misunderstood.

From the rebellious child I was, a stubborn streak a mile wide, God taught me how to channel that “energy” into something positive and to use it for good.

From an accident that nearly claimed my son’s life, God taught me reliance upon Him, the power of prayer, and the importance of making every day count. To take time out of every day, no matter how busy I may be, to cherish those I love, to give that one extra hug, that extra moment to listen and to say a kind word.

When I look at all the prayers I thought God had ignored, he’s given me the gift of immeasurable gratitude for answering them according to His will, not mine. According to the entire picture of which He can see rather than the limited sliver I can see.

God has blessed every step I have taken, been with me on every stubborn detour, helped me back on my feet when I fell, healed my broken and bruised heart. God’s gentle whispers are what I finally heard the loudest.

Transition From Planning to Doing

It comes too easy for me to be in a perpetual state of planning. My day. An idea for a book. How to maximize my ability to serve. How to arrange my work area to best accommodate the reading or writing I “plan” to do. What I can do to be a good friend, good wife, good mother, good child of God. How to begin a blog. Oftentimes I find myself too exhausted from the planning phase to move into actively doing what I’ve spent so much time planning. The underlying reason? Sheer fear. Fear of not performing to a level that meets the expectations I  place on myself, expectations that rise above anything I would ever expect from anyone else. Also, fear of failure. After all, I can’t fail in the planning phase, right? Wrong!

We fail when we don’t act according to the gifts God has so generously blessed us with. I still plan my day, but I’ve learned to be more realistic with how many hours are in a day and strive to use those hours wisely. Service work has been chosen by what God has so graciously placed on my heart, a passion for children. Had I not transitioned out of the planning phase, I wouldn’t have attempted NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this past November, creating the first draft of a novel that’s been burning within me for so long. It would have still been a thought. And I wouldn’t have began this blog, something I’ve spent far too long planning so it would be perfect. But I’ve learned to be a little more gentle with myself. Perfection is no longer a burden I place on myself. Doing my best is good enough. And as long as I do my best, I cannot fail.